Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dry Hiking the Smokies

The drought in the American South is, of course, also affecting the Appalachian Trail. The Asheville Citizen-Times of 18 October 2007 has an article titled "Drought shakes up daily life, business" by Jon Ostendorff that attests to that fact.

Down in the middle of the article these sentences relate to the Trail conditions:
"In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hikers on the Appalachian Trail won’t find a running spring for 35 miles — something that’s unheard of in at least 25 years.

"And the long-term forecast looks bleak. The federal Climate Prediction Center has warned dry conditions will persist at least through December from the Maryland-Delaware area south into portions of Georgia and Alabama.

"Parched conditions are not what most hikers would expect when they start on the Appalachian Trail through the Smokies.

"In the summer, the green valleys visible on the route between Fontana Lake and Clingmans Dome are often shrouded in early morning fog.

"Springs usually poke through the mountain in many spots. Even in the normally dry fall, soaking rain isn’t uncommon.

"But not this year.

"'The Appalachian Trail is the worst,' said park spokesman Ranger Bob Miller. 'At all the shelters along that route, all the springs are dry.'

"The park has been warning hikers of the potentially dangerous lack of water with trailhead signs and when they get their permits, which are required for the AT in the park.

"Farther north, toward Davenport Gap, the situation is not much better for backcountry water. The springs aren’t totally dry, but they are slow. Some take five minutes to fill a quart-sized water bottle, Miller said. 'Our backcountry management specialist has been here 25 years and never seen all these springs dry at once,' he said."
Kind of makes life harder for those southbounders still on the Trail. And means a simple jug of water may be the most welcome trail magic these days.

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